DA Considering Molestation Charges in Cantu Murder Case

April 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A sickening new accusation has been raised against the woman already accused of killing an 8-year-old Tracy girl. Prosecutors are talking about the possibility that Sandra Cantu was also sexually assaulted.The district attorney's new allegations sent shock waves through an already traumatized community. The suspect, 28-year-old Melissa Huckaby lived just five doors away from the victim in a Tracy mobile home park.

San Joaquin County Prosecutor Robert Himelblau says Sandra Cantu may have been molested and raped before she was murdered. Once again, Sandra Cantu's family is left reeling.

Himelblau said Monday that Melissa Huckaby will be charged with homicide, but that the District Attorney's office is also considering adding the special circumstances of rape with a foreign object, lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, and murder during the course of a kidnapping.

Sandra's aunt, Angie Chavez, reacted to the possible new charges saying, "I'm shocked, just shocked. I'm the victim of the same thing& So I can't talk about it. It's too hard."

Huckaby's family also spoke with ABC 30 News by telephone. Huckaby's uncle Brett Lawless reacted to the rape allegation saying, "No. No comment. We would like to be able to talk to him (the district attorney). We want to make sure Melissa's properly represented."

Huckaby was arrested late Friday night during a five-hour interview with police. It came after the 28-year-old Sunday school teacher told the Tracy Press that the suitcase Sandra's body was found in had been stolen from her.

Huckaby taught Sunday school at her grandfather's church. The Clover Road Baptist Church is just down the street from the Orchard Estates mobile home park where Sandra and Huckaby both lived.

Sandra Cantu often played with Huckaby's 5-year-old daughter.

During her interview at police headquarters Friday night, police say Huckaby broke down and gave information that led to her arrest. Tracy Police Sgt. Tony Sheneman says police still will not release details about where they think the murder took place, how or why.

"It's a question on our mind, and people are still asking that. We don't know why and there may never be a plausible explanation as to why," Sgt. Sheneman said.

The exact charges against Melissa Huckaby have not yet been filed. They will not be filed until Tuesday morning, sometime before Huckaby's arraignment which is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Superior Court in Stockton.

If she is convicted and charged with the special circumstances she would become eligible for the death penalty.

She remained in custody without bail in San Joaquin County jail Monday where jail staff have been monitoring her mental health. She's not been allowed visitors.

San Joaquin County Sheriff's Deputy Les Garcia said autopsy results were still pending.

Public Grieving Place:
Fry Memorial Chapel
550 South Central Avenue
Tracy, CA
Hours: 10-4 on Saturday, Sunday and Monday

Public Service for Sandra Cantu:
Thursday, April 16, 2009
1 p.m. - People are asked to arrive early since there will be limited parking
Merrill F. West High School
1775 West Lowell Avenue
Tracy, CA

The reward for information leading to an arrest in Sandra's case has risen to over $30,000.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Tracy Police at: 1-209-831-6TIP

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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